It is not difficult to compare this year’s ‘Train to Busan’ to the 2014 film ‘Snowpiercer’ considering that both films are directed by South Korean film directors and that both films are set primarily on a train.
However, that is about where the similarities end.
While ‘Snowpiercer’ has many thrilling action sequences and shocking moments, the film also actively embodies and analyses profound themes such as the human condition and social segregation.
Compared to that, ‘Train to Busan’ is a far less cerebral experience. It is fun, exciting and dramatic. It knows what kind of film it is and it knows who its audience are and thus, it has no pretensions of itself being some great masterful film that explores the human condition.
The film is a ‘blockbuster’ movie done right.
Unlike many big ‘blockbuster’ releases in cinema these days, where many big, epic and loud scenes overwhelm a majority of the film, ‘Train to Busan’ paces itself relatively well, with few scenes which I would consider epic action set-pieces placed sparsely throughout the film. In fact there are quite a few moments after the action sequences in the film where quieter scenes take the helm, serving as a way to let the viewer ‘rest’ and allow time for the characters to naturally develop and interact with one another.
That being said, ‘Train to Busan’ is a South Korean action, thriller zombie apocalypse film that is focused on a story about a girl and her father’s trip to Busan on a speeding train during a zombie apocalypse. It stars Gong Yoo as the father and Kim Su-an as the girl. And during this zombie outbreak, the two main characters meet other passengers and struggling survivors of the disaster such as a man and his pregnant wife, played by Ma Dong-seok and Jung Yu-mi respectively.
Despite the rather large ensemble cast, the film director Yeon Sang-ho and the writer of the film, Park Joo-suk have done a great job developing these characters. Allowing the viewer to relate to them and also feel for their circumstance, thus heightening tension within tense sequences.
However, as great as ‘Train to Busan’ is, the film is not devoid of flaws. The most prominent one I have found is both the film’s greatest strength and flaw. ‘Train to Busan’ is more concerned with heightening drama and it does so, at times at the expense of worldly logic. There are a few too many moments when the film milks out the drama for a few seconds too long such as within scenes of heightened danger and perhaps, the need for character sacrifice, the characters would stare at one another all teary eyed for a few seconds too long before they go on separate ways.
There may be some who would point out that the certain moments of goofiness within the film such as in film’s primary antagonist’s performance, a CEO played by Kim Eui-sung who plays the character in such an exaggerated and hammy manner that I can’t help but laugh when I see him on screen.
Despite these goofy moments, I feel that ‘Train to Busan’ is still a whole film with those parts as the film is not aspiring for survival realism like some other zombie stories have been striving for, but rather it is just trying to entertain and it does so extremely well.
‘Train to Busan’ may not be some artistic masterpiece and it knows that it isn’t one. With full awareness of its own goofiness, with it’s heart-pumping and well choreographed and well shot action sequences and with its ability to inspire emotional responses for the characters, ‘Train to Busan’ is a roller coaster ride from start to finish.